Wednesday Night #1695

Written by  //  August 27, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1695

Throughout history, human behavioural problems have lagged behind technological change, the Gutenberg press, the International harvester, the computer, coming to mind. The positive results have been manifold but the change in human behaviour, at times, painful. Current pension plans, by their nature have difficulty keeping pace with human development and achievement. Pension plans should, ideally, be designed to accurately meet the future needs of their members as well as foreseeing the effect of inflation until the age of retirement.

ISIS is of current concern, having moved into oil-rich Iraq. There is a suggestion that the move was motivated by its inability to successfully confront Assad. The potential danger is evident, but one would be wise to take into account the fact that success invites imitation. Saudi Arabia is said to be in risk of finding itself under the ISIS umbrella, although some Wednesday Nighters express the belief that ISIS’ failure to make inroads in Iran should be viewed as a sign of weakness.

Wednesday Night stock Market mavens while acknowledging that the possibility of a correction exists, the bull market continues.

“Inflation is an anathema to pensioners.”
“The stock market…every forty years, a strong bear market.”
“ISIS is not identical to Muslim just the same as Nazis and Germans are not the same.”
“ISIS gained strength in Syria and moved into Iraq (oil); they are not finished yet. There are other groups that are taking on a similar style. ”
“Putin has guaranteed Assad’s survival as does China. Can this enter into the picture with ISIS? Who knows? ”


Birthday greetings and every kind of good wish to our beloved Scribe, Herb, 90 years young on the 25th of August, and to Judy Geologist who shares the date, but not the birth year!

Not much noticed here (possibly because now, as then, French officialdom gave scant recognition of the role the Allies played in the event), Paris was liberated seventy years ago on August 25. If you never read it, or have read it and forgotten some of it, Is Paris Burning? by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins is a riveting account of the Liberation, filled with wonderful vignettes that support the military and political manoeuvrings.

Another happy anniversary – 100 years ago, on Aug. 24, 1914, Lt. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and soldier with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, came across and adopted an  orphaned female bear cub that he  named  after his adopted hometown of Winnipeg, launching the saga of Winnie the Pooh. How many of you realized that the prototype Winnie was female?

D.C.’s darkest day, a war that no one remembers (except Stephen Harper)
On Aug. 24, 1814, the British started a fire — and ultimately kindled a capital’s future. … The secretary of war, John Armstrong had argued in recent days that the British would not possibly attack Washington, because it was too unimportant, with just 8,000 inhabitants and a few grandiose government buildings scattered at a great distance from one another. … Critics called the conflict “Mr. Madison’s War.” Later historians would sometimes call it the Second War of American Independence. In Canada, the war looms larger in memory, as part of the founding mythology of the nation (“Canada” being a plausible answer to the who-won question).

Stephen Harper‘s current annual Arctic trip has given full scope to blending his now legendary enthusiasm for the Arctic and for matters historical : ‘We’re going to find’ Franklin expedition, Stephen Harper vows
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Franklin expedition “laid the groundwork” for Canadian sovereignty while ice conditions continue to concern researchers.
There are so many things wrong with this picture (read priority) in our view.  However Michael Den Tandt argues cogently that Harper’s Arctic strategy is more than just a political gambit
Two more items about Mr. Harper and then we promise to move on to other news.
We were somewhat surprised by the headline of Andrew Coyne‘s latest column: Call for a public inquiry on murdered aboriginal women isn’t justified, however it is hard to argue with his conclusion that “What we have then, is not a problem affecting aboriginal women, in particular, but aboriginal people, men and women. Both suffer vastly disproportionate rates of murder and other crimes of violence compared with their non-aboriginal counterparts. It is not clear why the murders of aboriginal women should merit our special attention and concern, and not the murders of aboriginal men, even if the latter, like men generally, are also disproportionately the perpetrators. … The broad project of repairing that social destruction should absolutely be among the first of our concerns as a country, with aboriginal people themselves very much taking the lead. It is not evident what contribution another public inquiry would make to that end.” Not that any of the foregoing excuses Mr. Harper and we agree with Andrew Coyne that “his arbitrary dismissal of the suggestion — ‘we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon’ — is almost cartoonishly simplistic.”
Between a hawk and a dove: NATO charts its future has harsh words for Mr. Harper’s approach to foreign policy: “This September, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will fly to Newport, Wales for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 2014 Summit. … Given the importance of this summit, Canadians cannot allow another embarrassing episode of The Stephen Harper Show to broadcast its “principled” bullhorn-diplomacy that promotes outdated, counterproductive military responses to complex international problems.”

Speaking of international confabs, it is instructive to review the 2013 St. Petersburg G20 Summit – Interim Compliance Report, bearing in mind that the G20 made a total of 281 commitments at the St. Petersburg Summit. These commitments, as identified by the G20 Research Group and HSE, are drawn from the official G20 Leaders’ Declaration, the St. Petersburg Action Plan and the St. Petersburg Development Outlook. Fortunately for the reader, the report is limited to 16 priority commitments. But it still comes in at a hefty 388 pages.

The Middle East continues to dominate the news.
ANOTHER ceasefire – we wish we had any confidence that the hope in the almost delirious headline Palestinians announce long-term Gaza truce is well-founded and that it will not only last but yield real benefits.
Should US play nice with Syria’s Assad? is no longer an unthinkable suggestion. The murder of US journalist James Foley has gruesomely illustrated just how dangerous the Islamic State (IS) has become. That’s led some to wonder if the US must now ally with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Especially given the capture of the Syrian air base on Sunday by ISIS forces. However, we are confused by this summary from Foreign Policy: In a significant step towards U.S. military action against Islamic State (IS) fighters operating in Syria, President Barack Obama approved American surveillance flights over Syria on Monday. The flights, according to the Pentagon, will focus on the border between Iraq and Syria … Administration officials told the New York Times that information about the flights will not be shared with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad … and may be coordinated with efforts to bolster moderate elements [if they can be clearly identified!] of the armed Syrian opposition. In a classic understatement: Any action would involve walking a delicate line between damaging the increasingly powerful Islamic State without aiding the Assad regime in the three-year-old civil war
For those who are not deeply versed in the root causes of Middle East strife, or in need of a refresher, Stratfor’s geopolitical analysis Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon’s Precedent makes for an informative read, although the WN experts may consider it simplistic.

Billed as a summit to decide the fate of Europe , the Minsk meeting between Putin and Poroshenko, along with the EU’s Catherine Ashton and the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan, and held against the background of news that Ukrainian forces had captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory, doesn’t seem to have advanced the cause of brotherly love between Moscow and Kiev – but then did we think it would? Unless, of course, something has happened away from prying media.
Making life even more interesting, the Ukrainian president has called a snap election for October 26 – a move towards “cleansing [unfortunate choice of words]  Parliament”  (good coverage, as always from The Guardian)

And of course, the really important news. Unrelated but both concern beverages to a greater or lesser degree.
Burger King Worldwide Inc announces deal to buy Tim Hortons
The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the acquisition, which would put the headquarters of the world’s third-largest fast food company in Canada. … Many observers have suggested the deal was motivated by a desire to take advantage of Canada’s lower corporate tax rate, although executives at both companies deny it.” This is one of the first time we have heard anyone say anything nice about Canadian taxes!
Caveat: Tim Hortons shareholders still have to approve the agreement and the companies will have to receive regulatory approval in Canada and the U.S. before the deal can close.
Expensive wine seeping across cellar floors shows Napa Valley was biggest loser in California quake
Scores were injured as the temblor knocked out power to thousands, caused gas and water lines to rupture and sparked fires. While the losses to the wine industry may not be huge in numbers, the Napa Valley produces premium wines and the valuable ‘wine librairies’ are irreplaceable. However, the good news is that it seems unlikely that wine prices will be affected.

A Postscript to previous discussion of the viral Ice Bucket Challenge fundraising campaign for ALS.
Applause for our good friend Anita Nowak:

No surprise! I’ve been ice-bucket challenged by my friend (thanks Paul Simard) to raise awareness and funds for ALS – a great cause to be sure.
The last I heard, this viral fundraising campaign had reached $13 million dollars (fabulous!) So, in light of their runaway success, I’d like to support another cause on a more micro level – whereby every single dollar will count in a different way.
I’ve decided to accept the challenge with a twist and am inviting any and all former students (from ISESI & Fundamentals of Fundraising) to dunk me after teaching my first class of the fall 2014 term (next Wed).
This term, the special theme of ISESI is social action and collective campaigns (the ice bucket campaign being a great example thereof), so I’m happy to bring this theme to life and help raise awareness and funds for Nellie’s, a woman’s shelter in Toronto.
Any takers can meet me in the back of the Bronfman building at 9pm on Wednesday September 3. (And I’ll leave it up to my former students to get the word out.)

Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and now Lord  Richard Attenborough. great actor and director (and not to be confused – as the Toronto Star did) – with his younger brother Sir David). As the tributes pour in, we are left to wonder who the next generation of giants in theatre and film will be; or will Youtube videos of people we have never heard of with limited talent (and cats & dogs who often exhibit more talent than their human counterparts) replace them?

We do know that there is talent among Wednesday Nighters and this week, we single out two in particular
Very happy to share the link to the new website of our talented friend Nancy Lydon Her work is lovely – we wish we could have one of each!
Our OWN Alexandra Greenhill continues her serial success story:
Learn to code craze spreads to toddlers
Could your three-year-old learn to code?
(Business in Vancouver) The founders of a days-old Vancouver startup think so. Entrepreneurs Nathan Slee and Alexandra Greenhill have started Littlecodr, a card game that teaches kids the basics of software programming.
Players use the cards to lay out a set of instructions (turn right, turn left, stop) another player then has to follow. Alexandra advises “We now have pre-orders from the UK, US and Denmark”; AND on Tuesday, Alexandra shared the news that “myBestHelper made the list top 5 apps in Vancouver – announced today! Top 5 Apps From Vancouver Startups  Kudos to Alexandra the Unstoppable.

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